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Loss of Vice Admiral Jim Calvert

Posted at Saul's Notes by Saul Klein
Jun. 6, 2009

A few years ago I wrote a piece about the heroes in my life (http://www.realtown.com/saul/blog/real-heroes-a-personal-story). One of my heroes not mentioned in that piece was Vice Admiral James Calvert. Admiral Calvert became the 46th Superintendant of the Naval Academy in the summer of 1968 just shortly after my class entered for our “Plebe Summer” and he left that position shortly after we graduated in June of 1972. He was also a contemporary of my dad, who was also a submariner. I know some of you on this list served in the Navy and believe that many of you will find the following of interest.


He was a hero to all of us at the Academy during those years. He passed away on June 3. I received the following this morning:



From: Rich Robison [mailto:Scribe72@comcast.net]
Sent: Saturday, June 06, 2009 5:33 AM
To: TheGouge@USNA72.com


We have learned that VADM Jim Calvert passed away on 3 June.  The following from the Alumni Association web site: :

 Retired Vice Adm. James F. Calvert, a submarine pioneer and author who served in the Navy during World War II before going on to be superintendent of the Naval Academy where he made innovations to the curriculum, has died, family members said Thursday.

Calvert, who was 88, died of heart failure Wednesday in Bryn Mawr, Pa., said Kemp Battle, his stepson.

“He was a wonderful man and did a lot of dangerous things,” his wife, Peggy, said in a telephone interview.

After graduating from Annapolis in 1942, Calvert went straight to work on submarines.

“A career submarine officer who began his service during World War II, he completed nine wartime patrols and later served an instrumental role in the development of modern submarine operations,” the academy said in a statement.

He served on the USS Jack for eight war patrols and another on the USS Haddo during World War II. The USS Jack, on which Calvert helped aim the torpedoes, is credited with sinking 15 Japanese ships.

Calvert wrote several books. In his 1995 memoir “Silent Running,” Calvert described his experiences in submarine operations in the Pacific during World War II, chasing and sinking enemy ships.

Calvert was the commanding officer of the nuclear-powered USS Skate from December 1957 to September 1959. The submarine became the first to surface at the North Pole in February 1959. Calvert wrote about the experience in a book titled “Surface At The Pole.” The trip had been made to test how well a submarine could operate in the Arctic Ocean.

Battle said deciding when to surface through the Arctic ice was “a very tricky moment,” because it was unclear what kind of damage the move would cause the submarine.

“It was a very dramatic moment when he decided to pick the spot and go for it,” Battle said. “At the time, it was a major feat.”

Calvert served as the 46th Naval Academy superintendent from 1968 to 1972.

For all of his adventures and accomplishments at sea, Battle said he believes Calvert was even prouder of his work at the helm of the academy.

During his tenure, he put an emphasis on increasing the academy’s ability to recruit top civilian faculty members.

“He felt very strongly that the education of young men demanded balance, so he fought for civilian teachers and was very proud of that,” Battle said. “He was very proud of that legacy.”

He also implemented the academy’s academic majors program, which broadened the academy’s curriculum beyond engineering to include other majors such as political science.

Calvert also created the academy’s James Forrestal Lecture in 1970, which focuses on leadership and has been given by prominent political, athletic and military leaders, including former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, football coach Dick Vermeil and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

“He really was interested in the development of the minds of leaders,” Battle said.

After retiring from the Navy, Calvert worked as an assistant to the chairman of Texaco. He also was a senior executive at Combustion Engineering in Stamford, Conn.

Calvert is survived by his wife of 41 years, Peggy, and their four sons Craig, David, John and Kemp Battle. He also is survived by two sons, Jim and Charles, from his previous marriage to his first wife Nancy, who died in 1965.


Rich Robison

Secretary, U. S. Naval Academy Class of 1972



Admiral Calvert spoke directly to me only once, and I will never forget the experience. It was in September of 1969. At the completion of Summer Cruise that summer, I failed the Cruise Final Exam. I worked hard on that cruise, had the best notes and studied for the test…and I failed the exam. Upon close scrutiny of my answer sheet, it appeared that if you moved the answer grid down one notch, I then got most of the answers correct. It was apparent that I had left one of the answers out and that threw all of the other answers off by one. I knew the material, I should have passed.


Failing the Summer Cruise exam is a big deal at the Academy and I had to appear before the “Academic Board.” I waited in the passageway (hall) until they were ready for me, and then entered a room with a long table covered with a green felt table cloth. Sitting around the table were some eight Navy Captains, very senior naval officers…and sitting at the head of the table was Admiral Calvert.  There he was, the “Sup.” Talk about intimidation. I had no idea what was going to happen, and I knew that I could be dismissed from the Academy…my life’s dream could be ending right then and there.


I walked in and stood at attention at the far end of the table, my arms by my side along the seams of my trousers, my hands cupped. My eyes looked straight ahead. I was 20 years old and facing a Three Star Admiral who had my life in his hands.


Admiral Calvert then spoke directly to me:

“Mr. Klein, we have reviewed your case. It appears, as you have stated, that if you move the answer grid down one, the answers line up. You had a bad day. But we want you to know that you will have bad days during your life…and as a naval officer, on those bad days, you will still have to perform. It is our decision that you repeat your cruise next summer, with loss of summer leave.”


What that meant was the next summer I would have two cruises to complete, and no time off…this was the navy’s form of leniency…I could have been kicked out. I was relieved, I was being allowed to continue as a Midshipman.




Saul Klein

CEO, Point2 Technologies



User Comments

1. RE: Loss of Vice Admiral Jim Calvert

Jun. 27, 2009

Dear Saul, how are you?

As I was reading the end of your post, I felt kind of nervous not knowing the outcome of your one encounter with Vice Admiral Jim Calvert.

Well, I'm sure the lesson learned when you were 20 made a lasting impact in your life, hence the person you became.

I was updating my profile and noticed that you've added me as a friend (Thank you!), and I wanted to reciprocate. That's how I came to this your latest post. Please accept my condolences for the loss of Jim Calvert. He's in a better place now.

We are here, & I've decided to make a good use of my blog to talk about this very interesting weather. Spring & Summer her in NY has been very different from previous years, so you'll be hearing from me soon :)

Take care!


2. RE: Loss of Vice Admiral Jim Calvert

Written by: Chelsea Foster
Jun. 29, 2009


Powerful words by the late Vice Admiral Jim Calvert.  I had to read them several times to let it sink in...  This is so true in all walks of life and occupation.  I will repeat the words as you wrote them.

"You had a bad day. But we want you to know that you will have bad days during your life…and as a naval officer, on those bad days, you will still have to perform."

Thank you for sharing this story.


Chelsea Foster


3. RE: Loss of Vice Admiral Jim Calvert

Written by: Saul Klein
Aug. 2, 2009

Hi Alexandra,

Thanks for your reply on my blog. I hope your market is picking up and that you are poised to get the most out of it for your clients, youreself, and your family.


4. RE: Loss of Vice Admiral Jim Calvert

Written by: Ellen Toay
Oct. 6, 2009

What a wonderful story and how beautifully written!  Being the daughter of a Real Admiral and the sister of a one-time midshipman, I could somewhat identify with what you were going through.  I know the military, know how intimidating facing senior officers can be.  You described the incident so well that I could visualize your standing there, most likely terrified when you had to face the brass.  But, what a great lesson - it is too bad that most of our society no longer expects people to take responsibility for their actions.  I believe we would be much better off as a country.


5. RE: Loss of Vice Admiral Jim Calvert

Written by: Saul Klein
Oct. 6, 2009

Hi Ellen,

Thanks for the note. I always had great respect for Naval Officers, many of whom were my heroes as a boy. There is a piece on my blog on real heroes. Take a look if you ge a chance.

Take care.


6. RE: Loss of Vice Admiral Jim Calvert

Written by: scott vickery
May. 4, 2012

Tommy Dykers was the major influence in Mr.. Calvert's  career....Do  you Agree  ?

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Blog by Saul Klein
San Diego, California

A collection of notes and observations by Saul Klein, CEO of Point2 Technologies and InternetCrusade.


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